Thursday, March 24, 2016

Homilies of the Sacred Triduum- Fr. Michael Udoekpo

Homilies of the Sacred Triduum- Fr. Michael Udoekpo
(1)Thursday of the Holy Week (Holy Thursday Year ABC)
·         Exod 12:1-8, 11-14;
·         Ps 116:12-13, 15-16bc, 17-18;
·         1 Cor 11:23-26
·         John 13:1-15
 Christ, Eucharist, Love and Service (CELS)
Chrism Mass
[On Tuesday evening here in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, the Bishops, clergy, religious and the entire faithful gathered around the Archbishop at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist to celebrate the Chrism Mass– held in many other global dioceses, as appropriate. Chrism Mass/Liturgy is an expression and a celebration of our faith in Christ, the High Priest, the unity of the Sacred Priesthood and Christ’s one redeeming Sacrifice of Love.  On this day when the Catholic Church celebrates the meaning of priesthood, Oils of Catechumens, the Sick and of the Chrism are blessed. Oils that the Holy Father, Pope Francis during his Chrism Mass in Rome(few years ago)encouraged every priests to carry, go out with, and prayerfully anoint the faithful with, especially the sick, the poor, the afflicted, the terrorized and the needy( in Brussels) everywhere!

Mass of the Last Supper
Tonight (even as the world prays for the victims of Brussels’ bombing attacks 2016) we begin the Sacred Triduum. These three solemn days encompass the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ. In this three days we are invited to remember in a special way the significance of the saving and redeeming events of the passion, death and resurrection and resurrection of Christ. You and I know the power of memory, remembrance! Remembrance is powerful. It revitalizes, reactivates and keeps past reality alive in us, as evident in tonight’s bible lessons Exodus 12, the Passover which memorialized  divine freedom of Israel from Egypt, 1 Corinthian 11, the last supper,  and John 13- Jesus’ washing the feet of his disciples.   
In other words, on Holy Thursday, “Maundy Thursday”, which in Latin- “Mandatum Thursday, from the root " I give," which means  “a Thursday of gift,” of command, order or mandate. As captured in the readings, tonight we remember three important gifts: the gifts of the Lord’s Super/the Holy Eucharist, the gift of the Sacred Priesthood and the gift of Christ redeeming love; love that is stronger than death; love that is stronger than the fear of the fleeing disciples,  love that is stronger than the untruthfulness of the power mongering Pilate and of the few “Jewish elites”; Christ’s love that is stronger than the betrayal of Judas, the denials of Peter, the mockeries of the Roman soldiers, the human selfishness, that shows up in different forms in our today’ world.
Among the gifts we celebrate tonight, the strongest, the common denominator is the Mandatum of Christ, the Love of Christ, which he shares with us, and encourages us, commands us to go out and share with our neighbors and wash our neighbors' feet.
Look at it this way.  It was out of love that God the Father free Israel tonight, from the clutches of Pharaoh in Egypt.  God the Father’s  gift of freedom to Israel is reenacted in the story of the Passover, in the  1st reading (Exod 12:1-8, 11-14) culminating in  Exodus 12:14, which says, “this day [tonight] shall be a memorial feast for you, which all your generations shall celebrate with pilgrimage to the Lord, as perpetual institution.”
Like Father, like Son! The Eucharist of which of which institution we reenact today, and of which Saint Paul speaks of in the 2nd reading (1 Cor 11:23-26) is a banquet of love, gratitude and service. It provides us a particular opportunity to remember not only how God the father freed ancient Israel, but how he has extended this love and freedom to us through his son Jesus Christ  who  loved his disciples to the end, shown in his humble gestures of washing their feet in today’s Gospel reading (John 13:1-15).
  By washing the feet of his disciple Jesus shows the depth of his love, a love leading to the cross; a suffering love! He teaches the hesitant Peter and all of us new way of sacrificial Love, a new way of service and friendship. Not a new way of “eye service.” He teaches us a new way of self-transcendence not a new way of self- aggrandizement.  He teaches us to wash our neighbors' feet. He teaches us a new way to serve not a new way to be served; a new way of humble friendship with all including the poor, the prisoners, the overpowered, and the marginalized.  By washing his disciples feet Jesus overcome by love the inequality that existed by nature between himself and those whom he had chosen as friends.
By washing his disciples feet Christ is saying to us today, “enough of the kind of attack” seen in Brussels few days ago. Enough of unnecessary wars, enough of terrorism, enough of ISISism and Bokoharamism, enough of dysfunctional socio-economic structures in our world and nations’ politics, enough of hatred, racisms and unforgiving spirit in our homes, families and societies, enough of the ministers of the gospel who are not willing to reach out generously, selflessly, to the poor, sick, aged and marginalized.
 I always believe that how we treat one another publicly or in private is the true measure of the condition of our interior life, especially of our life of prayer. This is the same message, our Holy Father, Pope Francis has continuously promoted in his ministries!
 As we celebrate this Last Super sharing in the bread and wine of new covenant of love, gratitude and selfless service, Christ, and ready to adore him at that Altar of Repose in that garden, let us know that Christ sees us, in every nation, state, county, town, dioceses, villages and out-reach stations. He loves us and recognizes us. He sees the rich, the poor and the downtrodden.  Let us know that having been washed clean, we have been given the spiritual capacity and blessed with the divine strength of his examples (John 13:12-15) to joyfully love and gratefully serve one another as Christ has first loved and served us.

2) Friday of the Holy Week (Good Friday Year ABC)
·         Isa 52: 13–53:12;
·          Ps 31:2,6,12-13,15-16,17,25;
·         Heb 4:14-16;5:7-9;
·         John18:1–19:42

 The Mystery of Redemptive Suffering (Good Friday)

Today is the second day of the Sacred Trduum, begun yesterday! Today’s liturgy rooted in the richness of our wonderful bible readings, invites us to enter more deeply into the mystery of Christ's redemptive passion, death and resurrection.

 Mysteries and ironies, of course, surrounds every section of today’s liturgy- that only faith can fully explain. On a day like this one may legitimately ask: What makes today Good Friday when the Stations of the Cross has just been re-enacted? What is good about the symbolic red vestments priests and deacons, wear today, at the beginning of the liturgy? What is good about the altars left completely bare, without crosses, candles and without fanciful altar cloths? What is good that the Holy Mass, sacraments are not celebrated today, except for penance and anointing of the sick– and many more other questions that you may one to raise? 

Answers to these questions are not single dimensional. The meaning of “Good Friday” may be found when we deeply and faithfully meditate on the crosses we shall soon venerate. Its meaning may be revealed through our meditation on the Stations of the Cross re-enacted across the global church. 

That Good Friday is redemptive and salvific is more revealing in the passages of today’s Scripture Readings, beginning with Isaiah’s 4th Song of the suffering servant of God (Isa 52:13–53:12)-- Ebed YHWH. Written several hundreds of years before the birth Christ to console, comfort and give hope to those exiled in Babylon. Isaiah says,

“He was spurned and avoided by people, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, one of those from whom people hide their faces, spurned and we held him in no esteem. Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, while we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins; upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed… he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses”( Isa 53:4-12).

Christians relate this image of the Ebed YHWH to Christ crucified on Good Friday! The writer of the 2nd reading, the Letter to the Hebrews must have been a Christian, familiar not only with the passages from Isaiah, familiar with the Christ’s suffering, but whose aim was to reveals the salvific nature Good Friday when it says, “In the days when Christ was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Son though he was he learned obedience from what he suffered, and when he was made perfect, he became source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”

Today’s Friday is ironically good because without it there would have been no resurrection, no salvation. This irony, this mystery is also evident throughout that long passion narrative read from the gospel of John (John 18:1–19:42). Throughout the Johannine Passion, Jesus “yet” is control.  He gives Judas Iscariot instruction to do quickly what he is about to do (John 18:2). In the garden of the Kidron Valley, Jesus asks whom they were looking for. As soon as he declared himself- the “I AM”, they all felt helplessly to the ground.  Here lies the Good Friday?

In all, the Jesus of John is the Son of Man that came down from heaven to whom the Father has turned over judgment.  When he is interrogated by the high priests, Jesus turns back the interrogation: “Why do you question me?” He makes it clear to Pilate that he has no authority over him. In this ironic trials of Jesus, Pilates is nervous and shuttles back and forth between the Jews outside the Praetorium while ironically Jesus remains in the Praetorium.  The shuttling Pilates finds no guilt in the innocent and steady Jesus, yet he had him scourged innocently. Yet Pilate lacks the courage to speak the truth. In John, only Christ is the truth, the life and the way!

In that passion read, Jesus dies kingly and triumphantly in John “bowing his head he handed over his spirit.”  On top of the cross, his title- “Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews,” is universally written in three languages (Hebrew, Greek and Latin). It is a universal Good Friday! A Friday that saves the world? Even though his garments are divided as foretold, his priestly tunic, the alb is intact, a priest forever! As long foretold, that on being lifted up he would draw many to himself, on the foot of the cross, came the fulfilment (tetelestai): Mary his mother, the sister, wife of Clopas, Mary Magdalene, the disciple whom he love,  Roman soldiers, Jews, Gentiles,  and secrete believers like Nichodemus, Joseph of Arimathea  were all there! Jesus is also given a kingly burial and laid in a garden!

This is the mysterious narrative that has really made Good Friday, good and redemptive. Today the victim has become the conqueror!  As Pope Francis has repeated emphasized, it is a gospel of suffering endurance for all who have in the course of history been persecuted and abused by those who are politically, socially, religiously and economically powerful; those plagued by diseases, natural tragedies, man-made violent structures, abuse of guns, ISIS, BOKO Haram, religious extremists, poverty, ignorance, but who realize that God is with them, and that the power of the oppressors are temporary.
May we on this Good Friday (2016), continue to contemplate the mystery of the redemptive suffering of Christ, remembering to bear our suffering patiently, as well as pray for our brothers and sisters, who are victims of the recent Brussels’ bombing! And may we together continue to build God’s kingdom through our lives of faithful witness to the Cross and  so help bring our neighbors to Christ with whom we shall one day share eternal life in heaven!


(3) Holy Saturday (Easter Vigil Year ABC). Fr. Michael Udoekpo

 ·      (1)Gen1:1–2:2 or 1:1,26-31a; Ps 104:1-2,5-6,10-14,24,35or Ps 33:4-7,12-13,20-22;
·         (2) Gen 22:1-18 or22:1-2,9a,10-13,15-18; Ps 16:5,8,9-11
·         (3) Exod 14:15–15:1; Ps Exod 15:1-6,17-18;
·         (4) Isa 54:5-14;Ps 30:2,4-6,11-13;
·         (5) Isa55:1-11; Ps 12:2-3,4-6;
·         (6) Bar 3:9-15,32–4:4; Ps 19:8-11;
·         (7) Ezek 36:16-17a, 18-28;Ps[a] 42:3,5;43:3-4;[b] Isa 12:2-3,4bcd,5-6[c]Ps 51:12-13,14-15,18-19;
·         (8) Rom 6:3-11; Ps 118:1-2,16-17,22-23;
·         (9)Gospel [Year a] Matt 28:1-10; [Year b] Mark 16:1-7; [Year c] Luke 24:1-12.

  Joy and Newness in our Risen Lord and Savior!

On this night of the Easter Vigil we gather as a Church of men and women, young and old, saints and sinners at the tomb of Christ in prayer awaiting his resurrection. Tonight’s gathering may be long, but joyful with 4 levels of beautiful liturgies. Level one celebrates with exulting hymn and lighted candles the joy of Christ as the Light and Savior of the world (soter tou cosmou), the source of every good things we have, health, jobs, and our families. It rejects and reject the darkness of sin, evil, hatred, racism, selfishness, and dysfunctional socio-economic and political structures; hopelessness, secularism, and even terrorism  as currently been experienced by our brothers and sisters in Brussels, and in other parts of the world today!

 Level two is the Word of God with nine readings, seven from the OT and two from the NT. Levels three and four come after this homily. They are the baptism or renewal of our baptismal promises and the liturgy of the Eucharist.

The central event of this 4 levels of liturgical vigil is the joy of Christ’s resurrection rooted in the story of salvation discovered in the various readings heard tonight. They are the stories of our relationship with God. In Genesis creation stories and in the psalms God creates lovingly, he orders, he gives names, he shows mercy, he is kind, and he also forgives. In spite of the brokennesses of our first parents, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and his generation God calls and establishes a covenant with Abraham, who is also willing to sacrifice, go through trials and  give back to God all that God had given him, including his only son Isaac (Gen 22:1-18)

Israel’s story is our story. In this story our lives belongs to God, who can write on a crooked line! While in the Egyptian exile he hardens Pharaoh’s heart and sees Israel through the wilderness and the sea of reed (Exodus 14–15). God is Israel’s divine warrior and redeemer! In the Babylonian exile he stood by them as expressed in the prophecies of Isaiah, Baruch and Ezekiel tonight.

 What Prophets Isaiah, Baruch, and Ezekiel foretold– life, hope, freedom, salvation, new life- has been  fulfilled tonight in the resurrection of Christ– witnessed by Paul in Roman 6:3-11. Paul says, “Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ (as will be done tonight) were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.”

The experience of the empty tomb must have been refreshing and amazing to those women- Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James and to others who accompanied them. It must have been amazing to Peter and the rest of the eleven. An amazing God! With the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, everything is possible! Creation is possible. The orderliness of creation is possible. The hardening of pharaoh’s heart is possible. The Crossing of the red sea without been hurt is possible. Raising Jesus from the tomb is possible. Healing is possible! Success in life is possible! Passing that examination is possible. True reconciliation is possible! Transformation is possible! Good socio-political structure is possible! Reaching out to the poor, the aged, and the needy more than before is possible! Justice is possible!

 As we gather around Christ’s empty tomb tonight may we be reassured of the hope, the transformation, and the new life that the resurrection of Christ brings us.  May we be reassured of his presence in our homes, families, churches, offices, journeys, and work places?  As we pray for our brothers and sisters, victims of terrorism in Brussels, and around the globe, may we continue to trust in his protective care? May we as baptized and believers be joyful and be reassured of eternal life in heaven after our pilgrimage here on earth!



Homily Easter Sunday ABC: Michael U. Udoekpo
·         Acts 10:34a, 37-43;
·          Ps 118:1-2, 16-17,22-23;
·         Col 3:1-4 or 1 Cor 5:6b-8;
·         Matt 28:1-9 ; Mark16:1-8;Luke24:13-35, and John 20:1-9

  Christ is Risen, Alleluia!!
 Let me begin by saying, Happy Easter! In the words of today’s Psalmist, and rightly so, “today is the day the Lord has made let us rejoice and be glad” (Ps 118). We rejoice in Christ’s resurrection, the good news, the highest point of our Christian faith, as planned by God! Can you imagine what our Christian faith would be without the resurrection, without Easter day; without this day of hope, without this day of glory? Easter day, today, is the “
Feast of Feasts” a “Solemnity of Solemnities.” It is a day that death has not only been annulled but defeated. By his Resurrection Christ guarantees us eternal life. He guarantees us that the Tomb will never be our final destination nor that of our loved ones.  Faith in what we celebrate today, Christ’s resurrection transforms us from darkness to light and from the feeling of despair to hope. It brings us newness of life.

Of course, that mixed events of Palm Sunday and of the Stations of the Cross of the Good Friday, humanly speaking, would have been thought of as a defeat, but divinely speaking the Resurrection is a victory which repairs this seeming defeat of that Good Friday! The passion ironically seems humiliating, but the Resurrection glorifies. It is a victorious combat divinely directed, since the tomb was never going to be Christ’s final destination.

 Commenting on how quickly Christ’s resurrection was, Saint. Leo the Great said in his Sermon (71.2), “That Jesus hastened to rise as soon as possible because He was in a hurry to console His mother and the disciples.” The resurrection of Christ consoles us of the temporary sadness of the Good Friday!

 In the 1st reading (Acts10:34, 37-43) Evangelist Luke documents, Peter’s personal life encounter with the Jesus of Nazareth. Born of Mary, baptized by John the Baptist, commissioned and anointed by the Holy Spirit to preach, heal, liberate the poor and the needy, visit those in prison and the down trodden. Similar, accounts is heard in Luke 4, “the spirit of the Lord is upon, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sights to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:18-19). In spite of Christ’s goodness and selflessness, they put Christ to death on the tree, as we witnessed on Good Friday. But on the 3rd day, “today” Peter says, God raised him from the dead.

Besides Peter, Saint Paul in his various preaching ministries bore witness to the resurrection of Christ. In 1 Corinthian 15:3-8  Paul reliably says, “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried …raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…appeared to Cephas, then the Twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive… Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all…he also appeared to me.”

 In today’s 2nd readings (Colossians or 1 Corinthians) Paul continues to speak of the resurrection of Christ metaphorically, in a coated language. For Paul (Colossian 3:1-4) the risen Christ is already at the right hand of his Father, waiting for us, who are invited to constantly seek things that “are above”: holiness of life, those virtues, hope, faith and love.

 What is the significant of “right hand side:? In this context, “right hand side” in ancient days, represent a pre-eminent place, an important position. The resurrection of Christ, puts us in a better position of joy, hope and union with the Lord.  It has a transforming impact. The resurrection of Christ, Paul says,  is  like clearing the sorrow of the old yeast, old malice, old habits, especially the bad ones,  and making room for the joy of the new yeast, the newness of life ( 1 Cor 5:6b-8).

The resurrection of Christ brings us out of the tombs of sadness, selfishness, corruption into life of justice and generosity. It brings us out of the tombs of malice, grudges into a new life of friendliness and forgiveness. Through his resurrection God is calling us out of the tombs of war, violence, terrorism into a new life of dialogue and peace! He is calling out of the tomb of indifference into a new life of reaching out and actively caring for one another, especially the poor, the aged and the voiceless.

  The resurrection of Christ transforms us as it did to Mary Magdalene and the Disciples of Christ who first encountered the empty tomb (Matt 28, Mark 16, Luke 24 and John 20-21).  John’s Gospel specifically states how Mary Magdalene first got to the tomb very early in the morning, out of love and care for Christ. When she found the stone removed from the tomb she ran back to inform Peter, John and other disciples. They all came witnessing the empty tomb and the burial cloths rolled up in a separate place. Christ has been raised! They became a different people, a transformed people.

Though transformed, each of these witnesses to Christ’s resurrection reacted differently in first place.  Mary ran back with amazement to inform others. Peter and his fellow disciples hurried with Mary to the tomb, and believed Mary’s testimony! Paul, on the other hand preached this testimony throughout his ministry. Common among these witnesses, is a change, a reaction, a transformation, from one point to another, from unbelief to belief, from lack of understanding to understanding!  Scripture says, they now understood, that Christ “had to be raised from the dead.”

For us today, how do we react to this joyful event? I think we need to be joyful, hopeful, faithful, and truthful in sharing Christ with our neighbors– that God has not abandoned us even in the face of terrorism currently experienced in Belgium and in different parts of the world.

  May the Resurrection of Christ brings us change in how we see the Good Friday; how we handle sufferings, illness, failures and life challenges. May it strengthen us in our baptismal promises to denounce sins, selfishness, violent, terrorism, bokoharamism, Isisism, for Peace. And may the transforming joy, blessings and newness of the Risen Lord reach to our homes, schools, factories, offices, towns, counties, villages, nations and work places as we celebrate the joy of Easter! Happy Easter!